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Free disk imaging and backup software

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This is yet another one of my posts aimed at telling you about free and open-source software solutions for performing common everyday tasks. While you may require CD/DVD burning applications on a regular basis, you rarely require backup software until it is time to completely reformat your system, migrate your data, etc. In the worse case scenario, your hard disk is failing and you need to back up an entire partition so all your precious files are not lost in the digital abyss of doom! On the other hand, you may be one who would like a way to be able to completely restore a PC with Windows and all your applications installed so that you do not have to spend valuable time performing individual installations.

The solution is to create disk images, which are simply snapshots of all of the data on a particular partition or disk just the way they are at the point of creation that you can use later to restore to that exact state. Many people use disk imaging when they are upgrading their hard disks; many disk manufacturers supply their own “disk cloning” software for free as part of their disk installation utility CD. However, there are other pieces of software out there that allow you to do a bit more than this. Symantec’s Ghost (AKA Norton Ghost) has been an easy-to-use paid solution for many years and it is not surprising that many of the free alternatives out there have many things in common with it and even have extra features that you would not find in Ghost.

  • Clonezilla – ” Clonezilla, based on DRBL, Partition Image, ntfsclone, and udpcast, allows you to do bare metal backup and recovery. Two types of Clonezilla are available, Clonezilla live and Clonezilla server edition. Clonezilla live is suitable for single machine backup and restore. While Clonezilla server edition is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously. Clonezilla saves and restores only used blocks in the harddisk. This increases the clone efficiency.”
  • Partimage – “Partimage is a Linux utility which saves partitions having a supported filesystem to an image file. Most Linux and Windows filesystems are supported. The image file can be compressed with the gzip / bzip2 programs to save disk space, and they can be split into multiple files to be copied on CDs / DVDs. Partitions can also be saved across the network since version 0.6.0 using the partimage network support, or using Samba / NFS.”
  • PING – “PING is a live Linux ISO, based on the excellent Linux From Scratch (LFS) documentation. It can be burnt to a CD and booted, or integrated into a PXE/RIS environment. Several tools have been added and written, so to make this ISO the perfect choice to backup and restore whole partitions, an easy way. It sounds like Symantec Ghost, but has even better features, and is totally free.”
  • DriveImage XML – “DriveImage XML is an easy to use and reliable program for imaging and backing up partitions and logical drives. The program allows you to backup logical drives and partitions to image files, browse these images, view and extract files, restore these images to the same or a different drive, copy directly from drive to drive and schedule automatic backups with your Task Scheduler.”

More can be found at thefreecountry.com. Note that these are “whole partition/disk” backup utilities which you may not need to run very regularly. It is always good to back up individual files on a regular basis so that you have an easy-to-access repository in case if anything goes wrong or your disk image is corrupt.


Written by falcon1986

24 May, 2008 at 11:37 AM

2 Responses

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  1. Add Macrium Reflect Free Edition to that list.


    I use it on Vista and it works flawlessly.


    3 June, 2008 at 4:49 PM

  2. Macrium Reflect disk imaging is available as a free edition now:


    I’ve been using the full version for a while now, It’s an awesome app!


    6 June, 2008 at 6:23 AM

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